The doping scandal rocking Indian athletics will have its scapegoats
The toast of the nation after their winning streak at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, Ashwini Akkunji and company are today at the centre of a monumental doping scandal.
Their career is virtually doomed and the shockwaves are rocking Indian sports.
Doping is an issue that is not new to Indian sports. Bottles and syringes were a common sight in the washrooms of athletic venues before the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) cracked the whip, bringing a measure of control to stem the rot. But doping never vanished, surfacing on and off only to be swept under the carpet.
However, in today's changed scenario, when our athletes reap a rich harvest of medals at international meets, it becomes impossible to brush away the rot.
Sub-standard testing, coaches seeking glory and pliant athletes have all contributed to the present mess.
The banned list
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and our very own National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) have clearly specified the list of drugs that are on the banned list.
It also includes so-called ‘supplements' and this list is accessible to athletes, coaches and support staff. So, is it right to trot out an excuse such as “sorry, I thought it was a vitamin pill”?
Even assuming that athletes such as Ashwini and Mandeep Kaur were not well-informed, there would have been others very much in the know of the banned list.
Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken has taken a tough and welcome stand on the issue. Already heads are rolling and the hunt is on for the culprits. Ukrainian coach Yuriy Ogorodnik is the first casualty.
The Sports Ministry has appointed Justice Mukul Mudgal, a one-man inquiry panel, to go into the root of the matter.
Justice Mudgal has hinted that the former Indian Olympic Association president, Suresh Kalmadi, and AFI secretary Lalit Bhanot, both behind bars for the CWG scam, might be questioned.
The NADA on its part, started raiding National Institute of Sports (Patiala) and Sports Authority of India (South) centre in Bangalore, making surprise checks on athletes and coaches and the testing facilities. More centres might come under its scanner.
One hopes these steps are not too little and too late. As Union Minister Maken said, “It is not enough to pick on athletes alone, but all those who are responsible for it [doping].”
Athletes like Ashwini will surely pay for it by losing all material benefits that came their way — job, incentives and endorsement offers. But more damaging is the taint on their careers and the destruction of their self-belief. That's tragic.